Chapter Two

He is long and lanky, like a shadow cast at the end of the day. Bony cheekbones. Sunken, shadowed eyes. They match the color of his carnivalesque attire, those eyes. He wears a coat of dark purple – or perhaps maroon, Elsa cannot tell. When the light catches it one way, it seems only the ragtag outfit of a street performer. But when the light catches it another way, it reminds the queen of dried blood. The vest he wears is bright purple – gaudy like a showman's garb. It makes him seem cheap, a two-bit huckster, hardly a threat. Even the skull and crossbones on his top hat seem only a gimmick to catch the eye of some bumpkin. Yet the rusty, bloody quality of his coat in the light keeps Elsa ill at ease. In the same manner, his eyes seem to flicker in the dim light, shifting like a slippery shadow... one moment violet, another moment seeming to be just touched with flecks of red…

Like a slippery shadow…

His shadow… Elsa keeps her eyes fixed on it, for it seems to move of its own accord. It mimics his movements, but something is just off enough in the synchronization to make her anxious…

"Who are you?" she demands.

The Shadow Man chuckles to himself. Oh, that's the voice of a girl born with a silver spoon in her mouth, alright. Surly. Proud. Thinks she's in command. He's heard voices like hers all his life, talking down to him from their fancy cars, from up on high in their big New Orleans mansions.

He loathes them so.

No matter the time or place, these fat cats always sound the same. High and mighty. Holier than thou. They treat you like the mud beneath their boots, but they've got skeletons in their closets, oh yes…

He feels the tremble in her voice. It does him good to feel it. She's still clinging to her fine airs. What will she do next, threaten call the guard on him? Well, let her wear her haughty tone like armor. No armor will protect her. He already knows she's bleeding from the inside.

"A friend," he says smoothly.

Elsa feels her hands grow clammy. His voice is rich as chocolate, deep as caverns beneath the mountains…

"What do you want of me?"

He only laughs a soft laugh, but it has the rumble of far-off thunder. "I think the better question is," he answers, "'What do you want?"

She eyes the stranger cautiously. "What do you mean?"

He loves watching the squirms of guilt, loves the moment wayward souls realize in horror that he can see into their hearts.

"Oh, I know what is to have a hard life, sweetheart," he murmurs. "Since I was a kid, I've scraped the shit off the streets. But you? Well, darling, I'll be damned if you don't put me to shame! Your life seems to wind like one long river of sorrow… How far it goes, you can't tell, but the black waters seem to stretch on endlessly. You escape drowning once and, why, your little boat up and topples over again… Living in fear all those years, then your parents dying, then seeing your sister cold as ice. My, my!"

As he speaks, her life swirls before her in a cloud of purple tinged with flame. She sees her parents' ship swallowed by the sea, sees their anguished faces when they realized there was no hope for them. She sees herself helpless in the darkness of her room. And then she sees Anna's lifeless form before her like a statue hewn of purest ice.

The purple cloud spreads into a fog, and when the fog rises, a world of light and vapor is before her. The light is not purple or crimson, but white as heaven's light. And there, at the heart of this glistening vision, half shrouded in pearly mists, she sees Anna and herself.

Naked.

Locked in an embrace.

She feels that rich-as-chocolate voice rustling in her ear:

"All your life, you've known pain. You've thought of others, buried your own wants for others' sakes. But you know what you want, Elsa. Take it. Isn't it time you thought of yourself for once?"

Elsa screams – and with her scream, the shadowland of light and pearl tears asunder, falls to pieces. She slumps to the ground and finds herself in the palace hallway once again.

"Never," she breathes, and her voice is firm.

But her heart is pounding.

"I… I could never… No… Anna is not some bauble you can dangle in front of my face," Elsa murmurs through gritted teeth. "She's her own person with her own life to live. She… she wants to be with Kristoff… She is… happy… with Kristoff…"

Crumpled on the ground, she cannot see the Shadow Man's face.

She cannot see how his face falls, his lips purse together and pencil-thin moustache bristles… only for his whole countenance to regain composure in an instant.

For the situation is salvageable. His mind works steadily as he studies the young queen curled up on the floor, sweat dripping from her waxy face.

As grubby and slick as a bit of shrimp…

…ready for the skewer.

"Always the honorable one," he says softly. There seems to be no malice in his voice. "Always trying to do what's best for your dear sister… but think about this, Elsa. The more the guilt, the shame, and self-hatred from this… lustful obsession… eat away at you… the more pain you'll cause your sister. Already, your inner turmoil is making you revert to your old ways. You're seeking out solitude, cutting yourself off from Anna again… and she can feel that, I promise you."

Elsa looks up helplessly. "I don't mean to…" she whimpers, but the Shadow Man goes on.

"She might try to pay it no mind now, but give it a few more years, and there'll be a gaping wound in her heart she cannot name."

There is violent panic in Elsa's voice now. "No… no, please, no…"

"Is that what you want, Elsa? To make the same mistakes you've always made? To torture Anna slowly in the process, torture the one person you love most in this world?"

Ugly sobs tear through Elsa's body. The very act of trying to answer chokes her. At last, after many ragged breaths, she manages to speak.

"I wish I… didn't have these… these feelings…" she gasps. "I wish I wasn't such a… degenerate… I wish Anna and I could live as sisters, without this… this canker between us…"

In that moment, she wants something only he can offer.

In that moment, he has her.

How changed she is from when she first spoke – the queenly aura crashing down! He loves watching the mighty fall!

He puts a tender hand upon her shoulder. His shadow reaches out from the wall and does the same. She doesn't even flinch.

Shadow and man cling to the young queen in a perverse image of comfort.

"Me and my friends can help with that…"


The great masks leer down at Facilier from the squalor of the voodoo emporium.

"Now, fri-i-e-e-e-nds," he drawls in his smarmy singsong, "I know y'all were expecting me to swish the smoky souls of both that queen and princess into your waiting nostrils, nudge 'em into each other's arms and watch 'em fall together like Paolo and Francesca, pretty as a picture, but–"

At Faciler's "but–", the eyes of the great masks narrow, burning with unearthly light. The greatest among the masks bares its teeth, a growl rumbling from beyond its jaws.

"Now, let me finish! Let me finish!" he cries, arms gesticulating wildly. "What I mean to say is, y'all don't know that much about how to work human nature. Y'all are fine fellows, sure, but the darkest thoughts are the only ones to draw you in. Now, I'll admit, I don't have the highest opinion of my fellow man, but I know what love is and how it works within a body. You wanted to give her the power to sate her lust, but she doesn't just lust after her sister. She loves her true. She wasn't going to go jump at that offer. I threw it in her face and she threw it back at me. She'd rather her sister be happy than she herself have her own happiness. So I had to go about things my own way."

When Facilier had begun to speak, there had been panic in his voice – but the more he spoke, the more pride scourged that panic away. They from the other side, why, they'd almost bungled the deal. He'd saved it. He alone. Through his own raw wit.

In his heart of hearts, he thinks he is cleverer than they are – and while he'd never say it outright (for he knows their rage would be terrible), in this moment, he cannot help but gloat a little… lord their own ignorance over them a bit.

"What did I do?" he says, in full showman style, as though he speaks to a tourist on the street and not the forces of darkness. "I appealed to that love. I made out that, the more her desires consume her, the more she tortures her sister. Queenie has to push her sister away so as not to succumb to temptation, but the more Queenie pushes her sister away, the more devastated the little princess becomes. You see, that put our Ice Queen in a bind. If she sacrifices her own longings for her sister's sake, it doesn't matter. The sister still comes out hurt. That broke Queenie, broke her down but good. And when she was good and broken, I was able to slip a subtle word in…"

The great masks grin horribly now. Facilier basks in the glory, never realizing that he is less than a dog proud of doing a silly trick for its master's favor.

"She wants to be washed clean of her sin. She wants never to think of her sister in that away again. That way, she doesn't have to avoid her – and that way, her sister doesn't end up hurt, heartbroken, and alone. Isn't that sweet?" he coos. "Well, gentlemen, I've never been much in the revivalist spirit before, but now? What are we waiting for?! Let's cleanse this poor soul! And don't you worry, don't you worry! I've been watching the sister too! She's already on the hook, doesn't even realize it!"

Facilier's laughter mingles with the laughter of his friends, shaking the shabby voodoo parlor. His long-fingered hand glides across the floor and the floor opens beneath his feet. Instead of wood, that remote part of Arendelle Castle spreads below him. He sees Elsa where he left her, kneeling as if in prayer. Yet he knows she has not the strength to pray. He studies the fine details of her face as though she were an ornately crafted chess piece. He savors the creases of pain about her eyelids, relishes the brittle grey straw of her hair…

Then he reaches down through the portal and whispers:

"So, your majesty, do we have a deal?"

Elsa's bloodshot eyes snap open at the prickle of his voice.

Other voices whisper to her and she does not know if they are the Shadow Man's friends or her own pained thoughts…

You're a pervert…

Monster…

If you remain as you are, you hurt Anna…

You cause her pain…

You can live with yourself this way…

And with her…

As you were meant to…

As sisters…

What does your soul matter – if you can cleanse this contamination in your mind?

What does your soul matter – so long as Anna is safe from the darkness in you?

"We have a deal," she murmurs, and shakes the Shadow Man's hand.

There is a sea of light and color and the world becomes a blur.


Queen Elsa of Arendelle sleeps better than she has in ages.

That first night, the Shadow Man watches over her like a dark god. The lines of pain which he so loved in her face are melted now. He has kept his end of the bargain.

When she awakens the next morning, she remembers nothing – not of the Shadow Man, not of the deal, not of her unnatural passion for her sister.

She awakens refreshed. Sunlight streams through her gauzy curtains. Birds twitter with joy.

Anna bounds into the room, hair wild in the morning. "You're up!" she cries happily. "Yay!"

Elsa smiles at her, a serene and peaceful smile.

"Kristoff and I are going for a walk later on today! We'll tell you all about it when we get back!"

"Of course, Anna!"

Anna pauses to look at Elsa closer. "You look… different today, Elsa! It's a good different! You look better than you have in weeks!"

Elsa feels a warm rush of pure happiness.

"I feel better than I have in weeks, Anna."

The Shadow Man lets out a sharp bark of laughter.

Days roll into months, months into years. The world seems in eternal summer for the sisters of Arendelle and their loved ones. They frolic in the garden. They go for picnics. In afternoons ripe and lush, they make daisy chains in the meadows. Olaf makes friends with the buzzing bees. In the blue glow of nights, Kristoff plays his lute merrily. Anna rests her head gently against his shoulder and Elsa looks on, beaming like the sun. In all their hearts, it is summer – warm and glorious summer!

Until the day of reckoning comes.

Usually, in the days before a debt is due, The Shadow Man contents himself with his victims' mounting panic – their hysterical desperation, their attempts to find any way to weasel out of the deal…

This, though? This might be better.

Queenie doesn't have a clue.

It makes it so much more beautiful when she starts screaming.

Her sister is there beside her, gazing at her with adoring eyes. Adoration turns to horror as that huge mask shows itself, opens its glowing maw, and inhales.

Its first breath flays the skin from off the queen's back, sucking her backward.

She tries to cling to Anna.

"What's happening to me?" she sobs, her face contorted with tears and pain.

She screams her throat raw.

Weke, weke! so cries a pig prepared to the spit.

Her screams are music to his ears.

In clinging to Anna, Elsa pulls her along with her.

Even in the cyclone of pain, she senses Anna being dragged along too.

That is why Elsa finally lets go.

For Anna. To save her.

Anna can do nothing, can only watch Elsa be consumed by the neon glow radiating from that mask's jaws.

The princess of Arendelle stands still as stone, eyes deadened in shock, gazing at the blinding glare of light emanating from the dark entity.

It is at this moment that the Shadow Man strides into her view, striking against the brilliant green behind him.

Seeing this shady figure of flesh and bone, cold shock kindles into outrage. Anna lunges at the Shadow Man, pummeling him with her fists.

Alas, her pummels are far weaker than usual and come to naught, for Anna is too overwrought with anguish and grief to put much force into them.

"Easy there, girl!" the Shadow Man cries. "Easy there!"

"What have you done to my sister?!" Anna demands.

"I haven't done a thing to her. She made a deal with some friends of mine."

And he tells her all in naked detail. He even tells her of Elsa's love for her, how it ran deeper than the love of a sister.

He sees Anna blanch at that and wishes he could take a photograph of her face – so his friends could taunt Elsa with it over on the other side.

He dearly wishes that he could immortalize that look of confused disgust and use it to sting the young queen for eternity.

But as the Shadow Man goes on, Anna's features soften. Her disgust for Elsa turns to pity and then to some strange mixture of pity and love – love tarnished by bitter knowledge, but love just the same.

That's what the Shadow Man has been banking on.

"Take me instead," Anna murmurs.

"What was that?"

"Take me in Elsa's place. She's… she's suffered enough…"

Ah, the better angels of our nature! Sweet, self-sacrificing Anna! Tinged with pity, tinged with guilt. Maybe a trifle of self-blame in there too considering the way he framed the story he just told!

His grand design works.

"You would do that… for her?" he intones gravely.

Anna stares into the yawning chasm of the gigantic mask's mouth. She stands upon the brink.

"I… I would," she says softly, and her voice shows she is afraid.

"Done!" the Shadow Man thunders – and with one rough shove, he hurls Anna headlong into the neon-green abyss.

"I'll mention your offer to my friends on the other side!" he calls after her. "To tell the truth though, I don't believe they'll take you up on it! They're not the sort of folks that go altering deals out of the goodness of their hearts! I'm sure your sis'll appreciate the sentiment though!"

He leans in over the mask's teeth to mock her, then pulls himself back.

Wouldn't want to get pulled in himself.

He twitches in mild apprehension.

When the mask's mouth closes, he looks up at it with a smirk.

"You don't plan to take her up on that offer, do you?"

The chamber rings with ominous laughter.

"I thought not."